Tag Archives: new releases

TBR 4.20

New month, new books! My March TBR may not have gone so well, but I’m back for a fresh attempt.

Every month for 2020, I’ll be setting a TBR with five of the books I expect to read (and love!) throughout the month. I won’t mention extras even though I may expect to pick up other things, and at the end of the month, finished or not, each of the five are barred from future 2020 TBR appearances.

Here’s what I’ve got lined up for April:

  1. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. A Women’s Prize longlister, and my last library book  until things reopen. Since this post is a little late I’ve actually started reading this one already and expect to finish soon- I’m quite enjoying it so far! It’s about a group of children investigating a friend’s disappearance in India.
  2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. A recent release, my first O’Farrell book, and another Women’s Prize longlister. This one features the death of Shakespeare’s son and the play he wrote soon after, titled after the same child. I believe the book focuses on the grief of the entire family.
  3. How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. Another Women’s Prize longlister. I am planning to read as much of the longlist as possible before the shortlist announcement on the 22nd, so this will be dominating my reading life for a while longer. This book is a Singapore-set dual-narrative novel about WWII and the traumatic aftermath of some of the events of that time.
  4. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This is a new release that came out at the end of March, and one I’ve been highly anticipating. I don’t know much about it but I think I’m going to love it- that’s one of the criteria I use to put these TBRs together; I wanted to read more high-rating books this year so I try to fill these monthly TBRs with titles I hope will be 4 or 5 star reads for me!
  5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is the first book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell historical fiction series. The third book has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize. It’s the longlister I’m least certain about finishing on time for the shortlist announcement, but I’m hoping that even if I don’t quite make that cut-off I’ll still finish the trilogy in April. I’m including the first book here as an extra nudge to get started!

tbr4.20

Clearly it’s a Women’s Prize-heavy list, but after partially failing my TBR in March I think this is the surest way to stay on top of things. I hope to pick up more of my 2020 reading goals again in May, including my 20 in ’20 list, 2019 releases I missed, and new releases I’m highly anticipating. But for now, these are some of the books I’m most excited to read in April! Hopefully this will only be the beginning.

 

And even though I don’t think I’ll have time to pick any of these up this month (I still need to catch up on March’s new books!), here is the list of new releases for April that I’ve got my eye on. I’ll be watching for reviews on these throughout the month to help me decide what to prioritize.

  • Sin Eater by Megan Campisi. Historical fiction about an orphaned girl tasked with listening to the confessions of the dying, eating foods that symbolize their sins, and thus granting them access to heaven. Out Apr 7th
  • The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. A horror/gothic novel featuring a woman who (to her surprise) inherits wealth and a castle in Italy. When she goes to check it out she learns that she’s inherited some dark family secrets as well. Out Apr 7th
  • Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell. Nonfiction that tells the tale of one man’s quest around the world to see how people from different places and cultures are preparing for what many see as a grim future for planet Earth. Out Apr 14th
  • You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce. A thriller in which a possibly dead novelist leaves behind a manuscript revealing the literal skeletons buried in her past. Out Apr 21st
  • Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh. A literary mystery about an elderly woman who discovers a note in the woods mentioning a dead body- leaving her to question everything about her new home.

 

Tell me about something you’re reading in April! Are you following the Women’s Prize or picking up any anticipated releases?

 

The Literary Elephant

Vacation + Book Haul!

I think I only mentioned once on my blog that I had a vacation coming up this month, so in case you missed that, I spent last week in New York City!

It was my first time there, I’ve wanted to go for ages, and when I agreed to it (with a friend) there were no COVID-19 cases in the city yet. Ultimately it was probably not the best time to be there, and it was so bizarre seeing Broadway announce it was closing shows two days after I’d seen one, and The Met announce it was closing the day after I’d been there, etc. The employees at the One World Trade Center were talking (loudly) amongst themselves about whether the observatory would close, while they were putting me in the elevator. I’d spent enough on tickets and housing and flights ahead of time that I really didn’t want to back out of my plans, but there’s no way to separate what has been happening with coronavirus from my NYC experience; my friend and I were doing everything we could to stay clean and healthy, to stay outdoors in open air and away from enclosed crowds as much as possible. I had to buy a second pair of shoes in NY because we were walking so much to avoid using public transit when we could. And now that I’ve returned I am isolating myself because I normally have frequent (direct and indirect) contact with my family, which includes three grandparents over 70, at least two of whom would probably not respond well to a bad virus. I’m lucky in that I live rurally and can quarantine myself without it affecting my life much, which was the main reason I was okay with going on this vacation even as things started to look more alarming right beforehand.

Anyway, all that was just to reassure you that I’m being as responsible as possible about taking a vacation in this fraught time; now on to the good stuff! I managed to see everything I wanted to on this trip, and some of the big ticket items for me were popular bookstores, so I’m going to share some photos and my book haul! The plus side of the isolation situation is that I’ll have plenty of time to dig into the eight Women’s Prize longlisters that arrived home in my absence, which I intend to start reading later today. I’ll also be catching up on comments, blog hopping, and posting throughout the week; I have a few non-Women’s Prize reviews to catch up on and then I’ll be dedicating myself to the longlist for the next month or so.

But first, New York! I was a massive tourist and mainly took the most expected photographs, so I’m not going to caption all of these. Feel free to ask for more info if you want it!

The pizza was a massive highlight- we ate at Julianna’s the first night and loved it so much that we tried two other pizza places throughout the week which were also excellent but didn’t top Julianna’s. I had somewhat low expectations for The Vessel (a honeycomb stair construction), compounded by the fact that my feet and knees and legs in general hurt a lot by the time we got to it, but it turned out to be one of the top hits of the entire trip. The view from the One World Trade Center was incredible, even on an overcast day (it’s ALWAYS an overcast day when I’m going up to ab observatory, this has also happened to me in Chicago, Washington D.C., and St. Louis). There aren’t really any museums around me so it was fantastic seeing some famous artworks in person. I’m not a huge fan of performing arts (I got dragged to a lot of my cousins’ elementary school plays as a kid and never quite recovered) but LOVED seeing my first Broadway show- Wicked! I was already a fan of some of the songs (I know I’m coming late to this game) but was only loosely knowledgeable about the storyline, which turned out to be a great starting point. Otherwise, the best part of the trip was simply wandering around, seeing the sights and getting a feel for different parts of the city (we were mainly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, there just wasn’t enough time to branch farther out). Ironically, the night I took the picture of a (crowded) Times Square was also the night I read a fresh article about Times Square looking like a “ghost town” thanks to coronavirus, so… don’t believe everything you hear! (But seriously, take care of yourself and those around you.)

Aaaand I’m an idiot who got too excited about the books to take any pictures of the bookstores (except for the ceiling mural in Albertine, which is in the top row of photos) but I did buy plenty! More than I was planning to really, but there aren’t many bookstores where I live and I discovered that it was impossible to walk out of any indie bookstore without making a purchase (especially since Barnes and Noble is by necessity my local go-to at home).

Here’s what I picked up!

  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor – I picked up a signed copy at Books Are Magic; this book was already on my TBR (I wanted to focus on buying things I was sure to read) and has a nice pink sticker on the cover that says “signed at Books Are Magic” so I have a little reminder of my trip as well. This is LGBTQ+ lit fic about an Alabama man figuring out life in a Midwest university town.
  • The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich – Also from Books are Magic. I heard of this one in college but it was barely on my radar- I wanted to pick up something about the city while I was there, and since I was having such a great time walking around this seemed like a good fit. It’s a nonfiction account from a man who walked through every neighborhood in the five boroughs and recorded impressions of them.
  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina A. Kover – I picked this book up at Albertine, a French and English bookstore. To be honest we went for the ceiling mural, but I really ended up loving the translation table and had such a hard time leaving with only one book. This one features a young girl whose family fled Iran for France.
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – From Strand Books. To be honest my feet hurt a lot and I was exhausted by the time we arrived here (they’re open until 10:30, which we took advantage of) so my selection here wasn’t quite as thoughtful. I had seen one positive review of this book and put it tentatively on my TBR, and then went and bought a copy mainly because it had that “Signed at Strand Books” sticker. But it’s about a grown woman trying to write and novel and figure life out, which could be a great fit for me, so hopefully I’ll love it.
  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman – My friend and I stayed one night at The Library Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any bookish people staying in Manhattan. There are so many perks, the staff is incredibly nice, and there are so very many books. This one’s an ARC I found in our room, a mystery that was already on my TBR. It features a woman who gets off a bus in Philadelphia with no idea who she is.
  • Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno – When we checked out of the Library Hotel, we were offered more ARCs. I hadn’t heard of any of the choices on the desk but I was drawn to the title of this one, and chose it on the strength of the phrase “grappling with grief and loss” from the blurb. I don’t know any more about it and I’d like to go in blind.
  • Pierce Brown’s Sons of Ares Vol II: Wrath by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell – I don’t read a lot of comics or graphic novels but maybe I would if I could frequent places like Forbidden Planet. This is the second volume in a Red Rising prequel series; I read the first last year and have been meaning to pick this one up, so was happy to find it!
  • Aries by Stella Andromeda – This was a total whim, found at Kinokuniya Books, a Japanese and English bookstore that hadn’t been on my radar but looked too good from the window to pass up when we walked by. There were so many great new literary hardcovers on display in this store that it was starting to feel a little torturous; I was already worrying about how I was going to fit everything in my carry on for the flight home. So I saw this cute little volume, remembered it’s almost Aries season and that I wanted to learn more about astrology and tarot this year, and I picked it up partially for its small size.
  • Titanic: First Accounts edited by Tim Maltin – I found this at Posman Books. I have a mild Titanic obsession, which began in the third grade when I learned that Titanic sank on an April 15, which is my birthday. (Obviously not the same year.) The obsession has cooled in recent years so I was not aware that this nonfiction collection of firsthand accounts existed but as soon as I saw it I had to have it.
  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff – I bought this at the 9/11 memorial museum. I have been wanting to pick this nonfiction account of 9/11 up for so long, and I couldn’t not buy it in New York once I knew I was going, and then I couldn’t not buy it at this museum. It’s on my “20 in ’20” list and it means a lot to me that I’ll be able to remember this trip and the memorial and museum when I read it.

 

bookhaul3.20

All in all, a great trip for books! I was proud of myself for limiting my purchases to one book per store, mostly. It’s a nice stack of things I genuinely want to read, which also double as location-specific mementos.

While I was gone, I also read most of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House which I have since finished and it was fantastic, and started Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies (do not ask why I brought multiple books on a short trip in which I expected to be buying more books, I don’t have the answer) which is also fantastic so far. I expect to finish the latter today and then start reading the Women’s Prize list while I catch up on writing reviews!

Thus ends this episode of where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming up on my blog. Spot any favorite books or stores in my list, or any favorite locations in my photos?

 

The Literary Elephant

Women’s Prize 2020: Longlist Reaction

It’s been almost 24 hours since the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist was announced, which means it’s time to share some thoughts and plans!

In case you missed it, here’s this year’s lineup:

Image result for women's prize longlist 2020

I’ve read two of the books so far: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, and Weather by Jenny Offill. I think they’re both worthy of the nomination.

I guessed five titles correctly in my prediction list, which isn’t bad for my first attempt at guessing! The titles I predicted correctly were: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

The only title I hadn’t heard of from this list is Luan Goldie’s Nightingale Point; I had been hoping for two or three books that were new to me, but this one sounds appealing so I’m pleased with it!

Of the fourteen books I haven’t yet read, five were already on my TBR: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee, Girl by Edna O’Brien, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I was also already planning to read The Mirror and the Light, though technically only Wolf Hall, the first in Mantel’s trilogy, was actually on my TBR.

Notable snubs: I think there are quite a few actually, as there were so many great new titles coming out over the last year from authors who’ve been up for other prizes, been previous winners, shortlisters, even longlisters, and been the subject of much popular conversation among readers. That said, the biggest exclusions that I notice are Atwood’s The Testaments, which I’m actually happy not to see, though it won (jointly) the Booker Prize in 2019; as well as Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport and Choi’s Trust Exercise, two of the titles I’d read and loved in the last few months and was most hoping to see longlisted. My first thought on seeing the longlist was actually “Oh no, none of those are Ducks!” For the record, I highly recommend reading it anyway if you’re interested in picking up the best literary books by women published in the last year.

Other early thoughts: since I haven’t read many of the books and don’t like to know too much about them before diving in, I can’t speak to thematic or content patterns yet. I can say I’m a bit surprised to see so many commercial titles in the list, though perhaps I shouldn’t be? There are a number of titles here that I was interested in already but not planning to pick up in any hurry, because I wasn’t sure I’d like them or was in the mood for them at present. But overall, I’m not disappointed in this list! There’s nothing nominated that I feel strongly opposed to reading or seeing honored by the Women’s Prize. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have been reading any of these books this month if not for their placement here, but that also means I’ll be able to go in without many pre-formed biases or expectations. Even though most were on my radar already, they’re fresh content for the top of my TBR! There aren’t any that I’m absolutely dreading off the bat, though I am a bit wary about Fleishman is in Trouble, which is the only title here I think that I’ve seen several underwhelming reviews for. Otherwise I’m mainly just excited to have a fresh list of well-written books by women to dig into, and I think I’m in the right mental space to approach them all open-mindedly! It should be a good prize year!

My plans: I’m determined to read the full list. I’d love to finish it before the shortlist announcement (April 22), which I’m setting as my goal, but it’s certainly going to be a challenge. I’ve already placed library holds and bookshop orders for all of the titles I still need to read, so it’ll mainly be an issue of timing for me. I will be on vacation next week, which will mean a bit less reading for me in general, and also that the books I just ordered won’t be in my hands until I return, so I can’t start reading the list immediately. I do hope in the meantime to tackle my other TBR goals for this month before I can start the Women’s Prize list, so that once I’m ready to begin I can spend the latter half of this month and most of next month focusing solely on this list. If I don’t quite manage to complete the longlist before the shortlist announcement, I’ll continue anyway.

 

Some individual thoughts and plans by title:

41081373. sy475 Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

I’ve read and quite adored this book, though it wasn’t a perfect 5-star read for me. You can follow the link through the title to my review. I’d be happy to see this one shortlisted, even this early in the game.

What’s it about? – twelve British women (most of them black) reveal the struggles they’ve experienced as minorities often overlooked or frowned upon by society at large. It’s a celebration of largely unacknowledged histories and identities.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple LineDjinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

I’ve got a library hold on this title, though it’s currently checked out so I might not be reading it until April.

What’s it about? – Set in India, this mystery follows a group of friends searching for a missing classmate. What begins as amateur sleuthing turns more serious as other children disappear and rumors of djinns abound, speaking to real circumstances in India.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

Fleishman Is in TroubleFleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

A copy is already on its way to me. It’s the title I’m least looking forward to, so I’d like to “get it out of the way” within the month.

What’s it about? – A recently-divorced man settles into his new single life full of dates and one-night stands. Then his ex-wife goes missing.

Excitement level: Low. But I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised!

QueenieQueenie by Candice Carty-Williams

My copy will probably arrive while I’m gone next week. I was interested in this book before its nomination and I’d like to read it this month.

What’s it about? – A Jamaican British woman in her mid-twenties grapples for a place in London society, making questionable choices while trying to figure out where her life is headed.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

DominicanaDominicana by Angie Cruz

My copy will probably arrive while I’m gone next week. I’m expecting to read it in April.

What’s it about? – A teenaged Dominican girl agrees to a marriage and a move to New York. It’s a loveless match, but the US offers her attractive opportunities, including the possibility of helping her family immigrate.

Excitement level: Meh. I’m drawn to the premise and themes, but suspect the tone and style might not work for me, based on reviews I’ve seen.

ActressActress by Anne Enright

I’m third in line for this one at my library, and suspect I’ll get to it in early April.

What’s it about? – An Irish actress rises to and falls from fame, in the end committing a “bizarre” crime. Her daughter follows her career and stands by her side as long as she can, looking for happiness in her own passion projects.

Excitement level: Meh. I’m neither thrilled nor wary about this one, anything could happen here.

The Mirror & The Light The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

I’ve ordered the entire Cromwell trilogy (I’ve yet to read any of them) and am hoping to binge it all in time; just in case it’s not going to be possible, I’ll probably save this one for last, in mid-late April.

What’s it about? – The final years of historical figure Thomas Cromwell, beginning in 1536.

Excitement level: So excited! The size of these books is definitely a bit frightening in combination with the “deadline” for the end of this prize, but I do think I’ll love this trilogy!

Nightingale PointNightingale Point by Luan Goldie

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it in April.

What’s it about? – Set in the 1990’s, something “extraordinary” changes everything in a single day for the residents of this micro community.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it! I’m confused but intrigued as to what this is actually about.

A Thousand ShipsA Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it in April.

What’s it about? – The Trojan War retold entirely from female perspectives.

Excitement level: So excited! I just read previous WP winner Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, which has put me right in the mood for more Greek mythology retellings!

How We DisappearedHow We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

My copy should be arriving mid/late March; I’m aiming to read it before the end of March.

What’s it about? – Set in historical Singapore, this is a dual narrative following a woman’s experience with the 1940s Japanese invasion and years later, a boy who hears an unexpected confession.

Excitement level: Meh. I was already interested in this title pre-longlist, but I’m afraid I’m not in the mood for WWII fiction at present. Hoping it’ll win me over anyway!

GirlGirl by Edna O’Brien

A copy is on its way to me; it’ll probably be one of the first longlist titles I read in March.

What’s it about? – Set in Nigeria, this is one woman’s tale of survival following the abduction and incarceration of women by Boko Haram.

Excitement level: Cautiosuly optimistic! This one was already on my TBR and I have high hopes. The suggestion that it’s a tale of faith and redemption makes me slightly wary though, I prefer hard-hitting fiction not to pull punches. But I don’t know yet which way this will go!

HamnetHamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

My copy probably won’t arrive until early April, so this will likely be one of the last longlisted books I read in mid/late April.

What’s it about? – Agnes and her husband (Shakespeare) lose a son in the 1590’s; what follows is a tale of grief and the writing of a play called Hamlet.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it!

WeatherWeather by Jenny Offill

I just read this last week! I have mixed thoughts, though I don’t mind it’s place on the longlist at all. Full review should be up later this week.

What’s it about? – A librarian spends her time trying to save everyone she knows, which becomes increasingly difficult as she begins answering mail for a friend’s podcast about climate change; as she worries that humanity is doomed, she’s left to wonder if there’s anything to be done at all, and whether the effort will be worth the time in the end.

Red at the BoneRed at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

A copy is on its way to me! The brevity is appealing, I’ll probably pick this one up as soon as I can.

What’s it about? – A generational family tale centered around a teen girl’s coming of age ceremony; an exploration of identity, parenthood, and long-lasting decisions people are forced to make, sometimes before they are ready.

Excitement level: Meh. I suspect this doesn’t have a lot of plot, and I’m not in the mood for parenthood stories at the moment. But I’ve heard great things and am hoping to be pleasantly surprised!

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett

A copy is on its way to me! I’m aiming to read this one sometime in March.

What’s it about? – A pair of siblings must leave the house of their childhood to their stepmother, and return to the poverty that their parents crawled out of years before.

Excitement level: Looking forward to it! This will be my first Patchett novel, which is long overdue.

The Most Fun We Ever HadThe Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

A copy is on its way to me! I’m aiming to read this one before the end of March.

What’s it about? – A family saga featuring an abundantly happy marriage and the four drastically different daughters it produces. A long-buried secret shakes their perspective on love and their relationships with each other.

Excitement level: Cautiously optimistic. I can’t pinpoint what exactly calls to me about this novel, but I have a good feeling about it.

 

All in all, I’m predicting quite a few of these will fall in the 4-star range for me, though I am hoping for a few 5s! I’ve divided the 14 I have left to read into 7 to read in March and 7 for April (plus the rest of the Cromwell trilogy), which will be a slight push considering when I’ll be able to get started and the fact that the shortlist is announced before the end of April. But it seems possible! I’ll be catching up on end-of-February reviews this week and likely I’ll be absent most or all of next week; following that, you can expect plenty of Women’s Prize content from me!

Have you read any of the list already, or see anything you’re now more interested in picking up?

 

The Literary Elephant